For Cory Monteith‘s last known film role, the actor took a stark departure from his work on Glee, playing a drug-addicted hustler sent to prison on a murder rap in the gritty indie movie McCanick.
Three weeks ago, the film’s writer-director Josh Waller attended a screening of the movie with Monteith, who had shot the film last September.
“He had expressed that he was kind of going through a rough time,” Waller tells ET Canada, “but that he was feeling better about it, and then when I saw him at the screening he wrote me a really sweet email.”
Waller tells PEOPLE he had no hesitation casting somebody who had a drug problem in such an intense role.
“He was like: I can do this character, I know this character, I was this character, I have lived elements of this. He said I was a troubled youth,” says Waller. “He was so charismatic and passionate about the material it was just a combination of everything that made me think this guy was going to do it.”
On Saturday, Monteith, 31, was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room of unknown causes.
Waller found out from Monteith’s McCanick costar Tracy Toms.
“The bottom dropped out a little bit, and I kind of knew what [her text] was going to say, but I was just going to hope from the get-go that it was a hoax,” says Waller. “It’s horrible, but I haven’t really processed it yet.”
Fans of Monteith’s may make donations in his name to three charities that were especially important to him: Project Limelight Society, which exposes youth living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to the arts; Virgin Unite, founded to support entrepreneurial efforts to better the world; and Chrysalis, which helps homeless and low-income individuals find employment.
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